NATURAL TREATMENTS FOR THE MENOPAUSE
Many menopausal women don’t like the idea of a medical or hormonal treatment and prefer to find a more natural solution. Some like to use them alongside conventional medical treatments. For others, treatment like HRT is just not advisable so what are some of the alternatives (along with a balanced diet, supplements and exercise) for easing symptoms?
Homeopathic remedies to support menopause
Homeopathic treatments are based on the idea that taking certain highly diluted substances (derived from plants and minerals) can kickstart the body into healing itself. Homeopathy is a holistic treatment (where the homeopath looks at the whole of your lifestyle – including your emotional states, how you respond to stress, any physical problems – to help pinpoint the right homeopathic remedies for you) and while some people are evangelical about its effects, others are of the opinion there is no way it can work. A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology report concluded homeopathy performed no better than placebos. The choice, however, is entirely yours, if you find homeopathic remedies helpful continue taking them and seeing your homeopath.Common remedies used during the menopause include:
For night sweats, abnormal cell growths like cysts, weight gain, disrupted sleep, painful sex, tiredness and anxiety (particularly about your health).
For oversensitivity, low moods and pessimism. Women who are said to benefit from this remedy are said to be very sensitive to the quality of their food, environment and relationships and tend to get particularly tired during mid-afternoon.
For those who find it difficult to switch off and/or say no, are always working or going out of their way to please others which causes them to disconnect from their own feelings. Women who benefit from sepia are also said to thrive in the sun and warmth.
For more information check out the Society of Homeopaths.
This is based on the idea that specific sites on the feet (and hands and ears) have connections to other parts of the body and by stimulating them you encourage the body’s natural healing processes. This natural, soothing, drug-free treatment has been found particularly helpful in alleviating stress and it has also been shown to reduce levels of pain. In terms of helping to manage menopausal symptoms a 2002 study concluded that foot reflexology was no more effective than a standard foot massage in helping to manage the psychological symptoms associated with the menopause. While we wait for more clinical evidence to show exactly how reflexology helps, as things stand it is thought to be a safe treatment to help with general well-being, relaxation and stress relief.
To find a reputable reflexologist near you go to The Association of Reflexologists.
This is the practice of inserting needles into specific points of the body which are said to help relieve pain and promote healing. There is some evidence that acupuncture can alleviate hot flushes and feeling of anxiety during the menopause. One 2016 study suggested it could reduce the incidence of hot flushes by half after three acupuncture treatments. It appears perfectly safe but overall, however, evidence is mixed and there are calls for more rigorous trials to assess its effectiveness in helping to ease menopausal symptoms.
For more information go to the British Acupuncture Council
Plant essential oils have been used for centuries to help alleviate menopausal symptoms and there is increasing scientific evidence to confirm how aromatherapy can help. A 2016 study showed that inhaling lavender essential oil twice a day over 12 weeks reduced menopausal hot flushing. There is evidence that inhaling peppermint and/or rosemary essential oils can help increase concentration and may help with menopausal brain fog. Research from 2015 suggests geranium oil may help alleviate depression and anxiety in menopausal women. In 2014 researchers found postmenopausal women who inhaled neroli essential oil reported an increase in sexual desire and were also found to have lower blood pressure.
Find more information at The Aromatherapy Council.
Relaxation techniques to support menopause symptoms
The hormonal changes you are going through can take it out of you and leave you feeling not just tired but also possibly anxious, irritable and maybe prone to bursts of anger. General lifestyle changes like exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep can all help but the need to take some time to rest and relax to allow your body and brain to adapt is crucial. Easier said than done we know, especially when the demands on your time can be as taxing as ever but research shows making time for yourself to fully recharge can help you cope. Unfortunately watching tv with a glass of prosecco or flicking through a magazine or social media doesn’t necessarily do this – you need to make a concerted effort to make time for yourself alone and train your brain to fully relax and change your thought patterns.
So, what could help you?
This has become a hugely popular trend in the last decade. Basically, it involves being generally still and fully immersed in the moment whilst accepting without judgement what you are thinking and has been shown to lower levels of stress, anxiety and even pain. It might sound a bit airy-fairy but there is growing research to show how just being - sitting quietly and being mindful (not thinking about the past or the future but being in the now) can help you relax. Science shows not only does being mindfully in the moment help to reduce cortisol levels, (the hormone released when we are under stress which is also linked to an increase in abdominal fat) in this state you are also less likely to experience negative emotions like envy, anger, fear and stress and so feel more chilled out. Recent research from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has also shown menopausal women who practised mindfulness suffered less with anxiety, irritability and depression. You can find many online sites devoted to mindfulness and how to do it and there are a range of downloadable apps to help you. You can also start by leaving your phone at home and walking for 10 minutes or so uninterrupted. If you live near water go and sit near and watch the water just ripple. Alternatively, pull up a comfy chair by the window and sit and stare out of it for 10 minutes. Try to feel comfortable with doing nothing.
Mindfulness and meditation tend to be linked and there are cross-overs in terms of how it is achieved and what the effects are. Meditation tends to focus more on the flow of breath in the body and encourages you to concentrate on your thoughts and emotions. Evidence shows menopausal women who do this regularly cope better with symptoms like hot sweats and report a generally improved quality of life. You can find plenty of online help with techniques but if you find it difficult to do by yourself it might be worth signing up for a class.
When we’re feeling anxious or emotional we tend to breathe shallowly through the chest. Help yourself combat this by practising breathing more deeply: Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Now breath in through your nose so that your belly lifts – when you exhale your stomach should dip back down. If you notice your chest rising and falling concentrate more on drawing the air into your abdomen. Deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which highjacks the response associated with anxious feelings leaving you feel calmer and more centred. This is also a technique you can use anywhere and anytime.
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